When I began in the master’s program for teaching reading, I ran across many unfamiliar words. I also read about areas of teaching reading for which I knew the basics, but did not have enough background knowledge to fully understand the text from which I was trying to learn more. Reading the International Reading Association’s journal, The Reading Teacher, was difficult to digest. Their journal, Reading Research Quarterly, was just plain frustrating because I was unfamiliar with how research studies were presented and all the statistic terminology associated with them.
I taught second language learners for five years and I grouped my read alouds in themes in order to help build their vocabularies and concepts of the world. Before beginning the unit, I carefully read all the books I had that related to the theme and focused on the vocabulary and level of difficulty in the concepts presented. Then, I made a list of the order in which I would read them to my students. I ordered them so that I would read aloud the books with the simplest vocabulary first and the books with the most complicated vocabulary last. Typically, books with the simplest vocabularies just give a brief overview of the concept and those with the most challenging vocabulary dig much deeper into the concept. Therefore, when we got to the more conceptually difficult texts, the students at least were already familiar with the vocabulary. Although I have never read any studies on the importance of doing this, I think it was a great help for them and I would highly recommend teachers and parents do the same. After all, we would not take French III before taking French I and really expect to understand, would we?
While in the master’s program, I reflected on how I so carefully ordered those texts and I wished that someone had organized what I was now reading in the same way. I knew I was missing so much because of my limited vocabulary and background knowledge of teaching reading. Luckily, one day, while using Google to find some resources, I ran across the Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL) website and found their “Focus” series. I read several of their articles, or booklets, and fell in love! They were so clearly written and they used large font and pictures, too! I am not sure if I knew it then, but widely cited reading researchers also write them. Overall, I really learned a lot from them and they really helped bring together everything else I was reading in a very cohesive way. I consider them great foundational pieces for understanding how to teach reading effectively.
I added a few of the articles to the External Link Categories area of this blog. I know that the more I add to the sidebars, the more scrolling you will have to do, so I did not include them all. However, I included a link to all of the articles in the “Favorite Articles, Charts & Videos” section. I hope you will find them as helpful as I did.
I wonder what articles and texts really helped you understand what are now known as the five pillars of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics/decoding, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension or if you are still on the lookout for such resources.
By the way, my understanding of the vocabulary used in teaching reading has grown so much that I now consider reading “The Reading Teacher” easy reading. However, “Reading Research Quarterly,” although easier, is still challenging due to my limited understanding of statistics. I always liked to show my students both journals and explain to them how the level of difficulty changed for me as my vocabulary size grew. It is important that they know the larger their vocabulary, the more complicated texts they will be able to understand. Word consciousness (which I will write about in future posts) is so important–especially for children who begin school with a vocabulary size much smaller than their peers.
Here is a link to the PREL articles: PREL Booklets. They have booklets for assessment, comprehension, fluency, English language learners, professional development, vocabulary, help at home, middle grades, older struggling readers, and several others.
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